Genetic Discrimination in Health Insurance: An Ethical and Economic Analysis

In Aine Donovan & Ronald M. Green (eds.), The Human Genome Project in College Curriculum: Ethical Issues and Practical Strategies. pp. 46-57 (2008)

Ben Eggleston
University of Kansas
Current research on the human genome holds enormous long-term promise for improvements in health care, but it poses an immediate ethical challenge in the area of health insurance, by raising the question of whether insurers should be allowed to take genetic information about customers into account in the setting of premiums. It is widely held that such discrimination is immoral and ought to be illegal, and the prevalence of this view is understandable, given the widespread belief, which I endorse, that every individual in a society as affluent as ours has a basic right to affordable health care. But prohibiting genetic discrimination in health insurance is not an effective way to protect this right. On the contrary, I argue that because of the nature of insurance as a product sold in a competitive market, such a prohibition is misguided, and its worthy aims must, instead, be pursued through reforms in our country’s system of publicly provided health care.
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